Let me ask you this: Has the whole world gone mad? No, seriously, were the tickets to Nuttyville discounted at the local Wal-Mart or something? I ask this because my FaceBook newsfeed has been filled with stories of grown ups beating on their children and actually celebrating it as the go-to parenting tool to raise good, well-behaved, well-mannered children.
One, a Texas Family Court Judge William Adams, who oversees cases of child abuse, was shown in a YouTube video using a big leather strap to beat the pee out of his 16-year-old daughter—a whooping that lasted for close to eight minutes. Her infraction: She downloaded videos games and music. As views of the video climbed to more than six million and the nation, buoyed by the daughter’s appearance on the Today Show last week, debated the merits of spankings and just how far is too far, Adams finally released a statement questioning his daughters’ motives for releasing the video and apologizing to his community for “the interruption and inconvenience” she caused by releasing the video and suggesting that her father may be a teeny weeny bit of a damn lunatic. Who probably shouldn’t be deciding child abuse cases. Or let anywhere near her 10-year-old little sister.
Adams’ video popped up just a few weeks after another man released his own video of a “disciplining” session he had with an 8-year-old boy who was being punished for cutting up in class. In the video, 25-year-old Devery Broox captions and numbers his discipline techniques, which include using a strap to beat down his little charge, shaving off the boy’s “swag”—i.e., his eyebrows and key chunks of his hair—and then sending him outside for a brutal boot camp-styled workout that would make the Navy SEAL team run home crying to their mama’s. He kicks off the video with a screwy missive about how many black men are in prison and how it takes a village to raise a child; please note that I learned about the video via a morning radio show, on which the hosts and every caller co-signed his techniques under the guise that if we don’t beat our kids, the “system” will. Um, okay. I’m not going to rehash the statistics of increased drug use, criminal violence and prison rates for adults who were abused as children; you can read them on Childhelp.org.
The icing on the child abuse cake came in the form of a story in the New York Times, which focused on a pastor, Michael Pearl, his wife, Debi, and their “parenting” book (I use the term “parenting” very loosely), “To Train Up A Child.” The tome, which has sold 670,000 copies and is said to be a favorite of Christian disciplinarians who cling to the “spare the rod” scripture, gives directions on how to beat 6-month-olds with switches and, according to the Times, describes, “how to make use of implements for hitting on the arms, legs or back, including a quarter-inch flexible plumbing line that, Mr. Pearl notes, ‘can be rolled up and carried in your pocket.’” The Times wrote the story about The Pearls because their book showed up recently in the homes of three separate parents who face charges of beating their children to death.
Long. Blank. Stare.
When, my God, when are we going to stop this madness? When are we going to recognize that that “fine line” everyone speaks of between discipline and abuse really isn’t a line at all, and that hitting a kid for any reason is just plain, bad parenting. Don’t come at me with the, “I was spanked and I’m fine” thing. I was, too. And you know what it did for me? It made me scared to death of my mother. It made my brother defiant and rebellious and sneaky. It made one of my cousins a life-long criminal. Another cousin, so angered by the years of abuse he endured as a child, refused to attend his own daddy’s funeral. I’m sure their outcomes from that “discipline” have been and are being repeated all across this country—playing themselves out in the courtrooms and the prison cells and the crackhouses and psychologist offices of our homeland.
Seriously, folk: Want to know how to discipline your kids? Get your parenting skills up. Read a book. Google it. Phone a friend. Buy a clue. Use your adult brain to figure out how to get your kid to do what you want and what you say without hitting them. You’re smarter than children. You do NOT have to resort to physical violence to check a 6-month-old or a six-year-old or a 16-year-old. Like, ever—point blank period.
And if it sounds like I’m being judgmental, it’s because when it comes to hitting kids, I am. We have to do better by our babies.
For tips on healthy ways to discipline your kids without physically abusing them, check out SpareTheKids.com, an organization started by Stacey Patton, a child abuse survivor. I also encourage you to read MyBrownBaby.com contributor Michelle Bond’s piece, A Reformed Spanker Reveals Why She Wishes She Would Have Spared the Rod. Each will make you think doubly hard about disciplining kids and finding ways to do so without hitting.